(04/05/16)High-street troubles – BHS in administration and what it means for you as a customer
With familiar high-street department store chain BHS in administration – and facing a very real possibility of total collapse – what are your rights as a customer?
The BHS brand is a familiar face on the high street in the UK, with 164 stores up and down the country. Not to mention more than 11,000 employees. Yet it is currently in administration, having been sold by businessman Phillip Green just over a year ago for just a quid. If BHS goes, it will be the biggest chain to fold since the credit crunch took Woolworths down in 2008.
The administrators of the company say that “the group has been undergoing restructuring and, as has been widely reported, the shareholders have been in negotiations to find a buyer for the business.
“These negotiations have been unsuccessful. In addition, property sales have not materialised as expected in both number and value.”
But what does this mean for us as everyday shoppers? And what happens if a buyer can’t be found and BHS closes its doors completely?
The big changes
The most important thing to note is that the fact of BHS being in administration changes the way you can exchange or return items. Consumer groups are also urging people with gift vouchers for BHS to spend them as soon as possible.
You can’t buy BHS gift vouchers anymore, but the shop says it will still accept them for now. Although they will only be valid for half the value of an item (ie if you buy something for £50 you can only use £25-worth of vouchers). My advice? If you’ve got BHS vouchers – spend them sharpish, as it’s not unknown for a retailer in the middle of an administration crisis to stop honouring gift vouchers.
Possible cash refunds
Full cash refunds will only be accepted if the item you’ve bought is faulty AND you purchased it after 22nd April.
You can exchange items, but BHS points out that proof of purchase is vital when doing so. Again, 22nd April is the key point here – you can exchange something you bought from BHS as long as you did so during the 35 days before April 22.
BHS says its online shopping is continuing as normal, as is its delivery processes. But if you have made an order you should get in touch with BHS to check the progress of your order.
If it has been packaged and sent out for delivery, or is waiting to be sent, then it's likely you won't have a problem and it will arrive as planned.
But if the items you’ve ordered haven’t yet been processed or sent out, there might be problems, as BHS will start to clear its stock as fast as possible if a new buyer for the company cannot be found in order to minimise its debts. This means that your item might be unexpectedly out of stock
More annoyingly still, you will need to apply to the administrators for a refund if you paid in cash.
You’ll have to provide proof of purchase along with details about when the order was placed and any other useful reference numbers you have. However, even then you can’t guarantee that you will get all of your money back.
Is there any chance of some form of protection?
If you paid by credit card and the amount was more than £100 and less than £30,000 (including VAT), you should contact your credit card company to see if you are covered by ‘equal liability’ (sometimes called Section 75). This is very often the case and simply means that your credit card provider is jointly responsible with the trader for compensating you when things go wrong.
The best part of this is that you don't need to have paid for the full amount on your credit card – even if you only paid a small amount of the overall cost on a credit card.
You should also consider the ‘chargeback’ scheme run by Visa and Mastercard.
To take this route you must get in touch with your bank by 120 days after learning of the problem (in this case BHS possibly going under). You then need to tell them of the issue and ask for them to pay you the value of your items.
You will need to show proof of purchase, the date you ordered your goods, plus any reference numbers you might have. The bank will then attempt to retrieve the money from the retailer. Although there are no cast iron guarantees it will be successful.